I really appreciate how the Public Scholars seminar has forefronted questions about what it means to work with/for various publics and the kinds of problematics that emerge at different scales of engagement. For me during this quarter, the class has also coincided with several conversations about bioethics in science and medicine. Early on in the quarter I felt afloat in a sea of questions, perspectives, and criticisms about 1) the role of the university and humanities PhDs at work in the world and 2) the relationship between science and society. These experiences together have sharpened, or crystallized, into a more clear understanding of where I locate myself in these debates.
Undertaking public-facing scholarship or publicly-engaged work forced me to take an ideological stand. Rather than rolling around perspectives and scenarios in my head, I can state more clearly that 1) debates about the working lives of humanities PhDs are always also debates about what the university is for and who it serves, and 2) debates about the social impact of scientific knowledge must begin with justice, and not just an ‘ethics checklist.’
[Moreover, these conversations cannot happen only in 1) the university, or 2) scientific meetings. If we are serious about engaging publics, then they should be present in these messy beginnings where we get to set the stakes, the limits, and the purpose of our research. … this is a bigger issue than I feel prepared to address at the moment – but it’s been great to have the Public Scholars seminar as a place to check in with each other as we figure out the contours of our summer projects in conversation with each of our community partners.]
I feel prepared to start working with the Center for Genetics and Society this summer – I know more where I stand, what’s important to me, and how CGS fits into those values. I appreciate that CGS is focused on justice and equity regarding new biotechnologies and I look forward to learning more about how to do work in the public interest on this topic. I bring a slew of skills as a humanities PhD, but now I feel more confident in how I fit into these complex issues about the university, the public, and science.